MMS Blog

As commercial aviation expands to accommodate a new class of international travelers from emerging markets such as China and India, demand on small and mid-sized aerospace suppliers to expand production capacity is placing a premium not just on automation or skilled labor, but on the supplier’s overall scalability.

The challenge of accommodating for growth and increasing throughput is different today than it was just a few years ago. With a shrinking supply of skilled manufacturing workers responsible for increasingly automated and complex machining processes, scaling up now favors knowledge sharing and the systemization of operations over the traditional goal of simply boosting employee headcount.

When we talk about “hybrid manufacturing” we usually mean some combination of 3D printing and milling technology. But at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, hybrid means something else. Dr. Michael Sealy is combining metal directed energy deposition with a different type of secondary process: laser peening, applied between 3D printed layers.

The specific machine used for this procedure is an Optomec LENS 860 hybrid machine tool. LENS stands for Laser Engineered Net Shaping (LENS), a powder-based directed energy deposition (DED) process used for repairing parts as well as building them up from scratch. In its hybrid configuration, the DED capability is more often paired with a milling head that might be used to cut off damaged portions of a part, tap holes or finish machine a part.

The evidence that your machine shop is organized and efficient is not necessarily tied to the shop’s overall cleanliness or how slick your company’s website appears. As the barrier to entry for startup job shops drops along with the cost of machine tools, the ability to tightly manage the entire process chain becomes more and more critical. On top of that, as older generations of workers retire, the need to eliminate tribal knowledge at job shops becomes more critical. As this article points out in greater detail, these two points are deeply related.

At the recent Top Shops Conference in Cincinnati, Ohio, Paul Van Metre, co-founder and president of the enterprise resource planning (ERP) software company ProShop, pointed out several metrics that prospective customers will use when deciding whether to award your shop its next contract. While the ability to machine quality parts may be widespread among your competitors, these are the areas of operation Mr. Van Metre says, if controlled properly, will give your shop a distinct advantage. Here are 10 key metrics, paired with Mr. Van Metre’s presentation commentary.

By: Aneesa Muthana 10/18/2019

Women Advocacy: Empowering Without Dividing

Women Advocacy: Empowering Without Dividing

As manufacturing leaders and business owners, we have a responsibility to promote the industry to groups that often aren’t naturally inclined to choose manufacturing as their career. This extends to Generation Z, grade school students and young women who, in particular, represent one of the largest reservoirs of untapped talent.

The more attractive we make our industry to young women, the more success we will have closing the labor gap. From the outside looking in, it’s still a male-dominated industry where men outnumber women by more than three to one. Compared to 30 years ago, when women were almost unheard of in the industry, it’s clear we’re trending in the right direction. Some see this progress and ask if manufacturing still needs groups that focus exclusively on women and their accomplishments.

It is still possible to run an efficient machine shop without using comprehensive shop management software. During our travels around the country, we still encounter shops using paper job travelers and filing cabinets stuffed with job quotes, shipping documents, certifications, tool management archives, purchasing records and job schedules. The common thread for these shops, typically, is that they are small, family-owned business with stellar retention rates for employees who rarely take time off or get sick.

East Branch Engineering and Manufacturing in New Milford, Connecticut, used to fit this mold. Founded by Paul Guidotti in 1989, the shop today has 20 multi-axis machines for milling and turning, run by 16 employees, including Mr. Guidotti’s son, Chris, who joined the business in 2003 and today serves as vice president of manufacturing.